Even brilliant ideas are never new: The need to cite appropriate references in a research paper

Andre K. Geim, who shared the 2010 Nobel prize in physics, once said:  “One should realize that ideas are never new. However brilliant, every idea is always based on previous knowledge”. For example, the internet would not have been possible without integrated circuits which in turn would not have been possible without the invention of transistors.

Unlike the journalists who write political news and prefer not to divulge their sources, researchers who create new knowledge and publish it in professional journals have a different task to do: reveal their sources of information. Therefore, when the editor has to make a decision on a research manuscript, the foremost point that needs to be checked is whether the author has attempted to establish the significance of the proposed work in relation to existing knowledge by citing appropriate references.

As an editor, I have frequently come across cases where many authors botch on this important attribute. The universal belief that we cite references to protect ourselves from plagiarism is not wholly right. Suitable citation of references is important not only to acknowledge the role of other published research on the author’s work but also to establish a verifiable context for the new idea. Providing relevant references in the paper will also inform the reader about ideas that back the new proposal and those that highlight the limitations of the previous work.

While it is important to cite even older papers to point out the historical background to the author’s work, it is even more imperative for the editor to ensure that authors cite papers that have been published during the last couple of years. This will establish the relevance of the work submitted to the journal as timely and current research. Being an editor, I am quite sensitive to the fact that inadequate referencing will also deprive the readers of locating the background material required to comprehend the work presented in the paper.

It turns out that occasionally even reputable researchers have a penchant to not cite some references by design. As displeasing as it may be to have one’s work not cited, it is even harder to tolerate if someone tries to project their work as a new idea without citing prior art. This is where reviewers and the editor should step in to correct any conspicuous omissions of referencing. Vigilant editors and reviewers should treat exclusion of key references in a research paper as an abominable practice and take corrective steps.

Before I make my editorial decision on a paper submitted to my journal, I always bear in my mind that accurate referencing is as vital as the idea that the author is espousing.

This article is available at http://editorresources.taylorandfrancisgroup.com

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Expanding the boundaries of your research using social media: Stand-up and be counted

How to cite: M. Jagadesh Kumar, “Expanding the Boundaries of Your Research Using Social Media: Stand-Up and Be Counted”, IETE Technical Review, Vol.31 (4), pp.255-257, July-August  2014.

When Archimedes faced the task of finding if a fraudulent goldsmith mixed silver in the golden crown made for the king, he designed a simple experiment. He immersed the crown in water and measured the volume of water displaced. He then obtained the density of the crown metal as a ratio of mass of the crown and the volume of the water displaced. He proved that if the goldsmith used any metal other than pure gold for making the crown, this ratio would be different. The story goes that overwhelmed by this realization, a completely naked Archimedes ran into the street to announce his scientific discovery shouting ‘Eureka!’  This unconfirmed anecdote tells us how scientists in medieval times could have drawn the attention of the public to their discoveries.

Fortunately, in this digital age, we have other effective means to spread our research – the online presence in social media. Facebook and twitter alone are not the social media. There are other serious options such as blogs and wikis. Unlike the personal website provided to me by my organization, I personally like blogs largely because they not only provide me the freedom to write on various topics but also ‘pop-up’ effectively on search engines [1].

We all know that science is changing very fast. Even educated Indians who are no longer part of the structured learning cycle surely would like to know what the faculty in our higher educational institutions, such as IITs, are doing. Ask a common person about research done at IITs. You will draw a blank. In fact, we ourselves as colleagues of these active scientists, often do not know what exciting work they are doing other than looking at their list of publications through ‘Web of science’ or ‘Scopus’ or some other means. The blame comes squarely on us for our failure to create awareness about our work particularly among the non-scientists. It is time that we made use of social networks to disseminate information about our research. We need to “bridge the gap between the rigor of science and the curiosity of non-scientists” [2].

Many scientists are unenthusiastic to self-promote their work. However, a scientist also needs to be a good communicator and an educator. While faculty in higher educational institutions work on cutting-edge research problems, they are regrettably behind the curve when it comes to their presence on social media. How many faculty from IITs do you see writing on social media? Just a handful. This situation should change. We should effectively use the social media to describe our work to a wider audience, particularly the youngsters. Our online presence can influence not only public perception about our research but also motivate the youngsters who would like to take up scientific research as their career.

We typically spend a couple of years working on a research problem and publish the outcome as a research paper. Disappointingly, only a few specialists can comprehend such a paper. How can non-scientists get access to your research and discern the gist of your work? On the other hand, summarizing your specialized work using a simple narrative and attention-grabbing illustrations has no substitute as a tool for popularizing your research. When you rewrite your research work at a level comprehensible to non-experts, you may perhaps loose some accuracy. Nevertheless, your story will reach a larger number of readers.  If the general-public, whose tax money funds our research, do not know about what we are doing, how do they care about us? Do we not have an obligation to communicate with them to increase their confidence in us? Unfortunately, while scientists are very rigorous in their research, they often seem to be lacking the flair to communicate an interesting narrative about what they do.

Maintaining a blog and writing frequently can spread your group’s research results to a large audience. You may get feedback, even ideas and new collaborators [3]. A usual tendency of scientists is of course to keep away from such social media because either they perceive it to be an unproductive activity or simply they are untrained to communicate with the non-scientific community. Scientists should learn to appreciate how important social media is to the popularization of science. However, convincing them to be on social media is never easy.

How can we improve public appreciation of science that we pursue? Why cannot we write simpler versions of our research and post on social media? What prevents us to learn to be good communicators using the available technology? There are several things that a scientist can do using social media such as a blog. You can not only write general articles on cutting-edge research progress but also express opinions on scientific developments. By doing this, you can be a scientist who cares to communicate with the ordinary people and not live in an ivory tower of self-inflicted isolation.

When a large number of scientists actively participate in providing information on scientific topics that public can read and appreciate, it is bound to encourage journalists from popular media too to pick up your stories for a wider distribution through their columns. Journalists, who are not necessarily science experts, often gather stories from limited sources. If each scientist uses a social platform to explain their work, journalists will have multiple sources, often authentic, since scientists themselves make this information available in a comprehensible language.

Cornelia Dean, a senior writer in the science department of The New York Times once said, “…if we journalists were going to improve the coverage of science, scientists would have to help us. But two problems existed. First, many scientists are not good at talking about their work in ways ordinary people—and journalists—can understand. Second, many scientists do not believe they have any reason, still less obligation, to do so. This belief is by far the more serious problem”[4].

Unlike publishing their work in professional journals locked behind subscription fire walls, when scientists write on social media, “ideas that were previously unarticulated or hidden ……become visible, interlinked, and searchable” for the public [5]. One of the biggest advantages of writing on social media is the “visibility” it provides for drawing the attention of the audiences without the need for running ‘naked’ as Archimedes did. Our presence on social media will also provide ‘meta-knowledge’ about individual scientists and their contributions in an organization. This is bound to change how ordinary individuals appreciate the role of scientists in society and the importance of their work towards the general progress of the country. Writing about our own work may appear to be an overt self-presentation or being selfish, but others will come to know of the the potential of our research work and its influence [6].

In our scientific work, we often use specialized terminology or complex mathematics making it almost difficult to grasp for the general-public. However, all scientific approaches are based on common principles that we experience in our everyday life. Therefore, it should not be hard for a scientist to turn his ‘boring’ exposition into an interesting short story.  Our ability to communicate successfully requires a variety of skills and an aptitude. Nevertheless, one can acquire these attributes with a little effort. Apparently, Albert Einstein has once said: If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

It is foolish to think that public cannot understand our research because they are non-experts. It is like a professor asserting: “I am a great teacher. It is the fault of the students if they do not understand me”. The fact is that we are simply denying the public the information on our research by being lazy about writing it in a plain language. Facing this truth may hurt our ego. However, we need to confront it. We often feel that governments do not recognize our research well enough and fail to fund us sufficiently. Do not expect politicians and government administrators to read our journal papers and appreciate our research. It is up to us to tell an interesting story about our research by frequently writing about it and posting it online.

Assuming there are ~500 faculty in each higher educational institute and if each faculty writes at least two exciting stories about their research each year that will escalate into a repository of thousands of articles. This will ensure diffusion of knowledge about our research among a large cross-section of population. Higher educational institutes should encourage their faculty to take up this task of going public about their research on a massive scale. These institutes should mandatorily provide a page on their websites where public could visit to learn about their faculty’s research. This page should contain links to the blogs maintained by the individual professors.

In a recent experiment using squirrel monkeys, it was demonstrated how “social networks may shape the diffusion of socially learned foraging techniques” [7]. Scientists trained a dominant male in a group about opening an artificial fruit in a particular way. They trained another dominant male in a second group a different way of opening the same artificial fruit. Soon squirrel monkeys rapidly learnt these two techniques preferentially in the groups in which they were initially seeded. The association patterns of monkeys to each group influenced their learning pattern. This experimental outcome is a clear first demonstration of how social networks may shape the diffusion of information through a population [7].

A six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner, actor and writer Alan Alda once wrote, “Every scientist reading this has a deep passion for science. I implore you: let your passion out. Share it with us. Warmly, with stories, imagination, even with humor. But most of all, in your own voice“[8].

As a scientist, are you ready to be a dominant monkey in social networks to spread scientific knowledge to the non-scientific general-public? Stand up and be counted.


[1] http://mamidala.wordpress.com

[2] https://www.amacad.org/content/publications/pubContent.aspx?d=1091

[3] H. M. Bik and M. C. Goldstein,  “An introduction to social media for scientists”, PLoS Biology, Vol.11(4), e1001535, 2013.

[4] http://2020science.org/2010/10/16/science-and-the-media-a-collection-of-essays-from-the-american-academy-of-arts-sciences/#ixzz36cRCbANv

[5] L. Efimova and J. Grudin, “Crossing boundaries: Digital literacy in enterprises”, In C. Lankshear and M. Knobel (Eds.), Digital literacies, pp. 203–226, New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2008.

[6] J.W. Treem and P. M. Leonardi, “Social Media Use in Organizations: Exploring the Affordances of Visibility, Editability, Persistence, and Association”, Communication Yearbook, Vol.36, pp.143-189, 2012.

[7] N. Claidière, E.J.E. Messer, W. Hoppitt and A. Whiten, “Diffusion Dynamics of Socially Learned Foraging Techniques in Squirrel Monkeys”, Current Biology, Vol.23, No. 13, pp.1251–1255,  July 2013.

[8] D. Kennedy and G. Overholser, “Science and the Media”, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA 02138, 2010.

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Quantum computing in India: An opportunity that should not be missed

To cite this article: M. Jagadesh Kumar, “Quantum Computing in India: An Opportunity that Should Not Be Missed, ” IETE Technical Review,  vol.31(3), pp.187-189,  May-June 2014.

The laws of quantum physics permit us to process information using what is known as quantum computing. A quantum computer is different from a digital computer that we are so familiar with. While quantum computing sounds like a new technology, the fact is that it is a mathematical approach to finding efficient solutions to computational problems.

Unlike the CMOS integrated circuit  technology, which is the backbone of today’s communication revolution, it is difficult to predict the trajectory of future developments in quantum computing. We must remember that the exponential advances in CMOS technology, during the last 60 years, are largely due to the evolution of planar technology based solely on silicon. The historical lesson that we need to learn here is that unless we zero-in on one or two possible technologies using a material whose properties are well understood, the evolution of any technology becomes unpredictable.

Unfortunately, during the last two decades, researchers have been grappling with too many alternate technological approaches (nearly 16 ways) from diverse fields of science to realize quantum computers. Some of these are based on electronic, optical and NMR experimental methods while others draw their strength based on advances in semiconductor and superconductor technologies. Our current inability to make a clear choice from among the available technologies is an indication of our immature status in building a working quantum computer. Unless we narrow down these approaches to a small band of realizable technologies, a quantum computer will only remain as an abstract idea.

To make quantum computing a reality in near future, the following approaches are aggressively studied: Josephson junction circuits, single electron quantum dots, and ion traps. Developments in nanotechnology will, therefore, form the backbone for advancing and realizing quantum computers. In addition, since quantum computing is prone to errors due to imperfections and noise, developing efficient algorithms to take care of quantum error corrections should be an inherent part of any quantum computing initiative. The challenges for the research community, therefore, include creating new models and quantum algorithms, sorting out architectural issues and developing technological solutions if quantum computers are to become a certainty.

From an experimental point of view, there are three areas in which research needs to be focussed: (i) Realizing qubits which are the elementary physical systems of a quantum computer to hold information, (ii) interconnects to pass information from one point to other in the physical platform on which qubits are fabricated and (iii) scaling-up the quantum computing systems. Interconnects in CMOS technology have already become a major roadblock because they cannot be scaled down at the same rate as the transistors. We do not yet know what kind of obstacles will be faced while designing the interconnects for a quantum computer. Qubits are very volatile and can lose the information very fast. This necessitates increasing the computational speed which in turn is affected by how these qubits are interconnected. Much of the research effort now is focussed on realizing the stable qubits on test beds. Broadly, the major research groups in various parts of the world are working on: (i) Superconducting qubits, (ii) flux based qubits, (iii) charge based qubits, and (iv) phase based qubits.

Theories are being developed for scaling and fault tolerant architectures for implementing better quantum algorithms. Other challenging issues for theoreticians include developing models for measurement and control of qubits particularly to minimize the impact of noise and fabrication non-uniformities on the behaviour of qubits. In quantum computing, developing theoretical approaches go hand-in-hand with experimental advances.

There are very few groups working in India in the area of quantum computing. During the last decade, there are less than 100 international journal publications from India on quantum computing. This is less than 2 % of research contribution from India to the world’s research output. Within India, we need to identify groups working in the area of computer algorithms, physics, electronics and materials engineering with interests in quantum computing. It is a highly interdisciplinary area. Computer scientists and mathematicians need to work on algorithms, architectural issues for scalable systems, data storage and data transmission while others will focus on the physical realization of the basic elements of the quantum computers.

Quantum computers can be realized using both top-down approach (based on existing silicon CMOS technology) or bottom-up approach (self-assembly). If we use top-down approaches, we are bound to face the similar road blocks common to highly scaled down silicon technologies. Setting up of such nanoscale fabrication facilities is very expensive running into more than US $ 6 billion. In India, the most cost effective method is to encourage the research groups to focus on bottom-up approaches. This will buoy up a large number of researchers since they can establish the required facilities with moderate cost. Existing expensive nano-research facilities in some of the IITs and IISc should be encouraged to follow the top-down approach to realize practical qubits and their chip level integration.

Some of the important quantum computing research concerns for India in the next ten years, therefore, should be:

1) Develop basic technologies for realizing qubits.

2) Integrate qubits and develop quantum computer test beds by optimizing the architectural issues.

3) Develop quantum algorithms and implement them on quantum computer test beds to demonstrate a proto-type quantum computer that works better than a digital computer.

4) Parallel to this effort, we need to work on issues related to noise, error correction algorithms, data storage and data communication within the quantum computer and between the quantum computers.

In addition, we should also give top priority to the following:

1) Identify the strengths and weaknesses of major research groups working in Josephson junction circuits, single electron quantum dots, and ion traps and set appropriate milestones with sufficient funding. Also encourage groups working with approaches other than the above to realize quantum computers.

2) Encourage theoretical computer scientists and mathematicians to work in close collaboration with experimentalists.

3) Have regular workshops and conferences among the above groups.

4) Establish national level high value fellowships to encourage doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to work in this area.

Developing quantum computational capacity should be India’s “top national priority” simply because acquiring such technologies from outside the country will be too difficult and expensive.  The use of quantum computing can lead to many fundamental scientific breakthroughs and new technologies with wide ranging societal and commercial applications such as data encryption, new drug discovery and weather prediction.

In order to keep track of international developments in quantum computing and to assess and steer India’s progress in this area, we need to have an Indian Quantum Computing Roadmap Group (IQCRG) consisting of academicians, industry representatives and end users. Several research groups are working in India within the broad area of Nanotechnology with diffused goals. The benefits of Nanotechnology efforts could be channeled into a specific national goal if these research groups turn their attention to quantum computing putting India on the world map as a significant contributor towards advancing the quantum computing efforts.


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Controlling Ambipolar Current in Tunneling FETs using Overlapping Gate-on-Drain

In this paper, we have demonstrated that overlapping the gate on the drain can suppress the ambipolar conduction, which is an inherent property of a tunnel field effect transistor (TFET). Unlike in the conventional TFET where the gate controls the tunneling barrier width at both source-channel and channel-drain interfaces for different polarity of gate voltage, overlapping the gate on the drain limits the gate to control only the tunneling barrier width at the source-channel interface irrespective of the polarity of the gate voltage. As a result, the proposed overlapping gate-on-drain TFET exhibits suppressed ambipolar conduction even when the drain doping is as high as 1 ?? 1019 cm-3.

Click here to Download the paper

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Compact Analytical Drain Current Model of Gate-All-Around Nanowire Tunneling FET

In this paper, we propose a 2-D analytical model for surface potential and drain current for a long channel p-type gate-all-around nanowire tunneling field effect transistor with a circular cross section. This model includes the effect of drain voltage, gate metal work function, oxide thickness, and radius of the silicon nanowire without assuming a fully depleted channel. The proposed model also includes the effect of the variation in the tunneling volume with the applied gate voltage. The model is tested using 3-D numerical simulations and is found to be accurate for all gate voltages except for subthreshold region.

Download the paper from: http://web.iitd.ac.in/~mamidala/id11.htm

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A Pseudo 2D-analytical Model of Dual Material Gate All-Around Nanowire Tunneling FET

In this paper, we have worked out a pseudo-2-D-analytical model for surface potential and drain current of a long channel p-type dual material gate gate all-around nanowire tunneling field-effect transistor. The model incorporates the effect of drain voltage, gate metal work functions, thickness of oxide, and silicon nanowire radius. The model does not assume a fully depleted channel. With the help of this model, we have demonstrated the accumulation of charge at the interface of the two gates. The accuracy of the model is tested using the 3-D device simulator Silvaco Atlas.

Download the paper from: http://web.iitd.ac.in/~mamidala/id11.htm

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Compact Analytical Model of Dual Material Gate Tunneling Field Effect Transistor using Interband Tunneling and Channel Transport

In this paper, we have developed a 2-D analytical
model for surface potential and drain current for a long channel
dual material gate (DMG) silicon-on-insulator (SoI) tunneling
field-effect transistor (TFET). This model includes the effect
of drain voltage, gate metal work function, oxide thickness,
and silicon film thickness, without assuming a fully depleted
channel. The proposed model also includes the effect of charge
accumulation at the interface of the two gates and the variation
in the tunneling volume with the applied gate voltage. The
accuracy of the model is tested using 2-D numerical simulations.
In comparison with the conventional TFET, the proposed model
predicts that a DMGTFET provides a higher ON-state current
(ION), a better ON-state to OFF-state current (ION/IOFF) ratio,
and a better subthreshold slope.

Download the paper from: http://web.iitd.ac.in/~mamidala/id11.htm

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